Does your soul long for springtime? Are you ready to see buds of new growth in your life?
I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in a spiritual winter. Sometimes my transformation to become like Christ goes into hibernation. My roots are dormant and there is no new growth.
The idea of a spiritual springtime invites my soul. I like the idea of a spring season to arouse my soul’s longings. I like tilling the soil of my heart to move my faith into a better understanding of grace and forgiveness. I’d like to arouse my sense of gratitude and be all the more surprised by joy when Easter Sunday arrives.
That’s what lent is about. In fact, the word “Lent” actually means “springtime”. Lent is a spiritual springtime, an annual return to reflections of the soul that produces new growth on the inside as spring blossoms outside.
Last year I read daily meditations from Bread and Wine – Reading for Lent and Easter, written by a variety of classic and contemporary writers—Arnold, Augustine, Berry, Merton, Chesterton, Nouwen, McDonald, Tolstoy, Carmichael, Yancey and others. Here are some of their words that give a glimpse into the meaning they find in Lent…
“The purpose of Lent is to arouse. To arouse the sense of sin. To arouse a sense of guilt for sin. To arouse the humble contrition for the guilt of sin that makes forgiveness possible. To arouse the sense of gratitude for the forgiveness of sins. To arouse or to motivate the works of love and the work for justice that one does out of gratitude for the forgiveness of one’s sins…In other words, a guilty suffering spirit is more open to grace than an apathetic or smug soul.”
“Lent (literally ‘springtime’) is a time of preparation, a time to return to the desert where Jesus spent 40 trying days readying for his ministry. He allowed himself to be tested, and if we are serious about following him, we will do the same.”
“Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing – unity with Christ.”
I’m a Louisiana girl, so I’ll confess that my exposure to Lent was very superficial. I grew up with words like Mardis Gras, Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent. Since I’m Protestant, those words simply meant there was no school on Monday and Tuesday. Extra benefits were king cake and the beads collected at parades.
Once the long Mardis Gras weekend was over, we returned to school on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The only thing I knew about the season was that lots of my friends gave up something they liked until Easter – usually chocolate or their favorite soft drink.
I was thankful that my church tradition didn’t ask me to give up anything for 40 days. In fact, I discounted Lent because it was something they did. We didn’t.
Lent has been around a long time—since the early 4th century. It’s a tradition to lead one into a spiritual desert just as Jesus went to the desert to fast 40 days before beginning his ministry (Lent is 46 days before Easter, actually, because Sundays don’t count). It’s a season to renew and refocus the soul.
Unfortunately, there’s been plenty of time for abuses and extremes, as well as superficial practices and superstitious beliefs. Some people practice it with a genuine heart, others out of obligation with no meaning—not unusual for most religious customs. But none of those are reasons to disregard it.
Lent is part of the liturgical Christian Calendar just like Advent—a tradition that Protestants are paying more attention to in recent years. Lent will be slower to catch on, though, because it’s about fasting—doing without–and honest reflection about one’s sin. It’s about looking at the cross, and we don’t like to do that. (Why we don’t like to look at the cross)
Surprisingly, I’m looking forward to Lent this year—unusual for my Protestant self. My soul looks forward to it like I look forward to spring. I’m going to read through the gospels, read Bread and Wine again, and I’ll fast.
Would you like a spiritual springtime? Would you like to see growth in the soul as we approach the celebration of Easter Sunday? Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Why not participate in the season of preparation?
This Protestant would like to invite you, my friend, to participate in this season of spiritual springtime.
- How about tilling up the soil of your soul?
- Where would you like to see renewal and new growth?
- Consider ways you can reflect on the story of Jesus so you’ll know him more fully (begin reading the Passion Week in Matthew or Luke ).
- Muster up the courage to look honestly at yourself.
- Is there something you will do without–fast from–to remind yourself of your soul’s hunger for God?
- How can you allow the Spirit to resurrect you with Christ to a new life?
Springtime is already blossoming outside with new leaf buds making their appearance on the brown winter branches.
I pray that as springtime blossoms around us, we’ll experience a spiritual spring too. Pay attention to the growth happening on the inside. Let the story of Christ’s journey to the cross impact your own journey.
What’s growing in the garden of your soul this spring?
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11